You Should Really Watch This Webinar on the Elements of a Good Headline

Jun 5, 2013

What makes a good headline?

This webinar covers how you should think about headlines, how you should approach them and some ways you can go about writing them.  

Some good headline writers to watch include: Gawker, Quartz, The Atlantic WireForbes and The Two-Way


Highlights (based on video timestamp):

1:20- 12:55 Why Headlines Are So Important and How to Get Started

1:23 Why headlines are so important

5:40 Rule number 1: don't pull the clever lever. Puns, rhymes and cultural references may be fun, but they distract from the story and can confuse the audience.

7:27 Why thinking about your headline in the very beginning of the reporting process can help structure your story and lead to a better outcome.

10:25 Make a headline promise something specific. You're competing for time, so make sure the audience knows why they're going to give the time to you to read or listen to your story.

12:55- 21.15 Exercises: Make Existing Headlines Better

12:55 "How a Couple Responds to Aurora Shooting" [Eric walks through how to make this headline more specific and shareable] 

16:54 Kansas: Then and Now [Eric walks through how to make this headline more shareable] 

19:06 The New York Times: When Pills Fail, This, er, Option Provides a Cure [Eric walks through why this is a bad headline, and how another media outlet did it better] 

21:15 Blog: Revealing the Truth: Photo Reconstruction by Tadao Cern [Eric walks through how this headline hides the fascinating story behind it] 

22:30- 41.38 Take Your Headline to the Next Level With Explanation, Conversation and Collaboration

22:30 Consider an explanatory headline. Explain why something matters, how it will affect your audience, or even what's next. 

25:19 Medical Software Giant Expands in KCK [Eric walks through how this headline was reworked to become an explanatory headline]

26:41 Make your headline digestible. Keep it clear and understandable. Don't use confusing acronyms or names. If someone can't understand the headline quickly, they will move on to the next thing.

34:34 Be conversational when appropriate. Speaking directly to the audience is a tactic on the radio -- why not in headlines?

36:23 Often, the first headline you write is not very good. Instead of stopping there, Eric recommends opening up a blank document and writing 10 to 25 different headlines. Pick the best, and use some of the other ones for Tweets.

38: 50 Stuck? Turn to your colleague for help. Collaborate in a Google doc, a chatroom, or just by shouting ideas back and forth.

41:38- End Is This Headline Good? Ask These Questions Before Publishing:


  • If you saw this headline on Facebook and twitter, would you feel compelled to click and share it?
  • Does your headlines promise something specific, important and interest?
  • Is your headline easily digestible?
  • Does your headline speak directly to the digital user?
  • Is your headline accurate?

Download a printable headline checklist here.